Can One Person in a Joint Tenancy Unilaterally Determine The Tenancy?

The case of Dacorum Borough Council v Sims centred around whether the long-standing rule that one party to a joint tenancy can unilaterally determine the tenancy, can withstand a human rights challenge under art 8 (respect for home) and art 1 (deprivation of property rights) of the First Protocol.

-    A joint tenancy effectively gives all tenants exactly equal rights over the property.
-    Article 8 provides a qualified right to respect for the home.
-    Article 1 of the First Protocol provides a qualified right to freedom from state interference with possessions (which can include an agreement for a tenancy of residential property).

In this case, Mr Sims argued that the rule which had enabled his wife to end the joint tenancy of their home without any recourse to him was incompatible with his rights under both articles.

The Court of Appeal disagreed with Mr Sims, deciding neither article was engaged by the operation of the rule.

-    Firstly, Mr Sims’ right to occupy his home had, to his own knowledge, always been qualified by the right for either him or his wife to end their tenancy by serving the council with notice to quit. The exercise of that right by Mrs Sims couldn’t, therefore, amount to an ‘interference’ within the meaning of either art 8 or art 1 of the First Protocol.
-    Secondly, the serving of the notice wasn’t the act of a public authority, to whom the articles apply.

Mr Sims may yet apply to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal, or take his case to the European Court of Human Rights.


Oliver Kew

Published on 07/02/2013

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